Riding the Bus with My Sister (2005)

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Based on a true story, this "Hallmark Hall of Fame" TV movie was produced by Rosie O'Donnell, who also stars as the profoundly mentally challenged Beth Simon. When Beth's father dies, her sister, Rachel (Andie MacDowell), a brittle, self-absorbed fashion photographer, takes charge of Beth -- who, having been allowed to grow up without learning anything of self-discipline and social propriety, is no prize herself. Though she loves her sister, Rachel is embarrassed by Beth's obnoxious, obstreperous behavior, especially when riding the bus, which she does religiously and obsessively every day, much to the dismay of the other passengers. (Be warned: this is not one of those lachrymose "lovable handicapped adult" movies so common to network television.) Also, Beth has been allowed by her overindulgent father to neglect her health and hygiene in a deplorable fashion. Gradually, the two sisters connect and manage to profoundly change one another. Those viewers and critics who condemned Rosie O'Donnell for her abrasive, over-the-top portrayal of Beth were generally those who had had little contact with genuine handicapped people; conversely, those who had such people in their own families, or who had worked extensively with them professionally, applauded O'Donnell for her disturbingly accurate performance. Adapted from the book by the real-life Rachel Simon (actually an English professor and not a photographer), Riding the Bus with My Sister was telecast by CBS on May 1, 2005.